Igniting Sight: Contemporary artists inspired by JMW Turner 6 July – 8 September 2019


Igniting Sight:

Contemporary artists inspired by JMW Turner

new paintings by Fred Cuming RA, Luke Elwes, Vanessa Gardiner, Frances Hatch Janette Kerr PPRWA RSA Hon Alex Lowery

Richard Batterham pottery and Petter Southall furniture

Saturday 6 July until Sunday 8 September 2019

Nick Reese Art History Talk: JMW Turner in Dorset and the West Country on Friday 12 July 6.30pm. Tickets: £10 or £28 with dinner to follow. Read more…

This summer, while JMW Turner’s painting, ‘Bridport, Dorsetshire,’ is showing at Bridport Museum, we celebrate Turner in Bridport by exploring the ways in which his influence lives on in contemporary landscape painting, particularly in the work of six artists, all of whom to some extent belong in the great descriptive English Romantic tradition which began with Turner’s truly great paintings. Please follow the links on this page to view the work.

Richard Holmes, the Romantic biographer, describes how Fred Cuming RA ‘reinvent[s] the world through colour‘ to paint ‘both a recognisable place, which can be visited; and yet a completely transformed object of poetic intensity.’  For Fred Cuming, Turner has long been an acknowledged influence, alongside Constable. Fred has always painted outdoors as much as possible and his ability to capture the magic of light effects on sea, sky and mountains cannot fail to bring Turner to mind. 

Fred Cuming RA Sierra Nevada
76 x 76 cm oil on board, framed

Each artist finds in Turner their own key to transform their paintings into poetry. Artist Luke Elwes writes: ‘Some years ago I chose Turner’s “Evening Star” for an Artist’s Eye talk at the National Gallery, a work that remains a touchstone, as it has done for other painters: Rothko studied it and Sean Scully made it the starting point for his current exhibition ”Seastar”. It shares with much of Turner’s later work a provisional quality, in which a luminous field composed of sea and sky apparently draws on a particular moment and place yet remains timeless and open ended. It is an elemental space, animated by Turner’s ‘weather’ and illuminated with a fiery radiance.”

Luke Elwes Confluence
91 x 183 cm oil on canvas

‘Luminous fields composed of sea and sky,’ describes the subject matter of Luke Elwes’ own work very beautifully. Whether they are watercolour studies he made at sunrise on the banks of the Ganges, or different waters closer to home, his paintings seem to ripple with reflected light, dappled shade and hazy indistinguishable horizons. Luke Elwes shows regularly throughout the UK and at Sladers Yard. His work is highly acclaimed and widely collected.

Vanessa Gardiner Godrevy Point 17
58 x 58 cm acrylic on board, framed

In her parents’ house, Vanessa Gardiner remembers two colour-tinted etchings of Boscastle and Beeny in Cornwall, made after Turner’s watercolours. ‘Both were exquisitely observed,’ she writes. ‘The precipitous cliffs were depicted in an exaggeratedly high manner.’ Both have been recurring themes in Vanessa’s paintings over many years. As have other precipitous locations Turner painted on his West Country tours such as Pentargon, Trevalga and Godrevy. Drawn, as Turner was, by the ‘dramatic coastal scenery and the clarity of the light’, Vanessa Gardiner also observes exquisitely and paints to emphasise the wild grandeur of landscape. A much-loved regular exhibitor at Sladers Yard, Vanessa Gardiner has work in numerous public and corporate collections.

Alex Lowery West Bay 309 45 x 100 cm

Turner’s sketchbooks reveal the workings of his mind and the bones or structure of his work even before he began to simplify the finished paintings. For Alex Lowery, an artist who has made his name painting hundreds of different aspects and light effects in West Bay, as well as Portland and a select few other places, Turner’s sketches for the West Bay painting are of particular interest. ‘A few lines serve to evoke a stretch of coast that is instantly, and movingly, recognisable after more than 200 years.’  Lowery is aware that he looks for the still point, what he calls ‘an essence, a kind of unchanging distillation,’ rather than for the drama of a landscape. However it is arguable that Lowery’s use of colour, his juxtaposition of solid land, of regular modern manmade buildings or street furniture against his infinite translucent skies have more of the sublime in them than he acknowledges.

Frances Hatch Dawn Rain in Perylene Red, Charmouth
36 x 72 cm acrylic and earths on Indian handmade paper, framed

To Frances Hatch the sketchbooks are ‘full of risk and innovative playfulness.’ She remembers particularly a small watercolour of a steamer, ‘a black smudge in a sea of nuanced neutrals,’ that held its presence in a room full of impressive paintings. Frances not only paints en plein air, she incorporates materials and matter from the place she is painting, mixing colours using clays and unusual substances and sometimes working on pieces of driftwood, tiles or other found objects. While her techniques are exploratory and expertly done, her eye is for the atmosphere and wonder of the places she paints.

Tate Britain’s 2015 exhibition Late Turner: Painting Set Free was a revelation to many, including Jonathan Jones in the Guardian, who wrote ‘Here at last is the Turner who matters – the man who invented modern painting.’ The loose visionary way Turner handled paint in his later years was taken during his lifetime as a sign he was losing his mind. Now however it is clear that having truly mastered his art he was pushing it forward far beyond his time. 

Janette Kerr PPRWA RSA Hon North-westerly winds, Ness of Bakka
85 x 150 cm oil on canvas, framed

For Janette Kerr, ‘Turner was the first of the abstract painters, to whom I owe a huge debt.’ His late works, ‘could have been made yesterday; surfaces of loosely scumbled paint and scratched lines holding the full sound and fury of the sea.’ Janette‘s practice is similarly immersive to Turner‘s and her words could describe her own work as well as his.

‘My paintings reflect my own struggle to capture the nature of the marine environment,’ she writes. ‘Painting is dialogue between visual thinking and the activity of the body – a pushing and pulling between mind and physical activity – between a surface of paint and the movement of the sea; marks built up, scrubbed out, overlapped, drawn and scored into; layers of transparent and opaque paint that both conceal and reveal the history of a painting made over time, as the sea ebbs and flows.’ Her paintings move between the abstract and the more figurative. Most striking is her love for elemental wildness and wet which blows through her paintings and into the eye of the beholder. Janette has strong academic credentials, she has been president of the Royal West of England Academy, has organised and raised funding for major exhibitions, projects and collaborations with scientists, environmentalists and many others in the UK and in Norway. Her work is in private, public and corporate collections.

Alongside the paintings, we are very pleased to announce an exhibition of Richard Batterham’s recent work, over 60 pieces made by him and fired with the assistance of his son Reuben.  Acclaimed as the foremost living maker of domestic stoneware in the world, Richard is very sadly not now expecting to throw more pots.  As things stand, this will be one of his last exhibitions of new work. The show comprises display pieces as fine as ever plus a good quantity of his intensely satisfying domestic ware. Richard has been making his distinctive work in the same Dorset pottery for almost 60 years.

Petter Southall’s solid hardwood steam-bent furniture is always a highlight at Sladers Yard and we now have the steam-bent pavilion he made for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show installed in the yard.

Please let us know at gallery@sladersyard.co.uk if you would like an invitation to the opening.